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On his first day in office, President Joe Biden appointed Charlotte A. Burrows as chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—the civil rights agency that enforces federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.
“I am deeply honored to be chosen by President Biden to lead the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” Burrows said. “The EEOC’s mission to advance equal opportunity for all in the workplace is particularly critical as we work to rebuild the American economy and address the challenges of systemic discrimination. I look forward to working with the President, my colleagues at the Commission, Congress, and the American people to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at success.”
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Throughout her decades spent serving in government, Burrows has come to be known and respected as an advocate for all Americans. As commissioner of the EEOC since 2015, Burrows expanded outreach to Native American and immigrant communities, which face disproportionate economic challenges. (In April, 2020, soon after the pandemic heightened in the U.S., more than a quarter of Native American workers were unemployed.) Burrows’s work was guided by principles of equity and inclusion.
Burrows fought workplace harassment and discrimination, and prior to working at the EEOC, served as associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice (DOJ). During her time spent protecting civil rights at the DOJ, she is credited with defending voters’ rights and taking a stand against gender-based violence and racial profiling.
She also has experience working on Capitol Hill as the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) general counsel for civil and constitutional rights, where she contributed to his work in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The current makeup of the EEOC leans slightly Republican:
- Chair Charlotte Burrows (D), whose term expires on July 1, 2023. (This position is appointed by the president, and does not require Senate confirmation.)
- Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels (D), whose term expires on July 1, 2021. (The vice chair position does not require Senate confirmation either.)
- Janet Dhillon (R), whose term expires on July 1, 2022.
- Vice Chair Keith Sonderling (R), whose term expires on July 1, 2024.
- Andrea Lucas (R), whose term expires on July 1, 2025.
Samuels will serve alongside Burrows as vice chair, having held the title of commissioner since October 2020. She was previously executive director and Roberta A. Conroy Scholar of Law at the Williams Institute, and is deeply familiar with the inequities that face women and LGBTQ people, specifically in health care.
Under the Obama administration, Samuels was acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, and managed the DOJ’s work to legally bar sex discrimination. She also served as labor counsel to Sen. Kennedy, a connection she shares with chair Burrows. Before becoming commissioner, she was an EEOC senior policy attorney for 10 years.
“It is a privilege to be able to serve the EEOC and the American people in this capacity,” said Samuels. “The EEOC’s mission to eradicate workplace discrimination could not be more critical than at this moment, and I look forward to our work to fully and truly realize the promise of our nation’s civil rights laws.”
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